Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Northeastern Speedway's Stories at Waterford Historical Society Meeting, October 25

The historical society's last public meeting of 2017 takes place Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 6:30 pm in the Davies Memorial Library in Lower Waterford.  The speaker will be Paul Bellefeuille, Northeastern Speedway owner, sharing stories and hands-on ephemera from his fascinating archive. View a neat aerial of the site of the Green Mountain State's first raceway here: http://www. 
Craig Brown and Donna Heath of Waterford Historical Society greet raceway fans at the speedway reunion in July 2017.
Also look here: Come find out what Paul's contributing from his collection to a 2018 Vermont Historical Society exhibit, "The Need for Speed."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

How People Get Engaged With History -- Vermont Version (Note!! Oct 16 Rgistration Deadline)

Weaving a Historical Web: Bringing Community & Collections Together

64th Annual Meeting of the League of Local Historical Societies & Museums
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Lyndon State College, Lyndonville, VT

Register Now with a Credit Card!  (under Events section in store)

The Vermont Historical Society invites you to join us and your colleagues in charming Lyndonville, Vermont. This annual meeting is always an excellent opportunity to network with peers; attend educational, informative and creative workshops; and visit a thriving Vermont town in the company of history-loving peers. Be sure to spread the word and encourage all members of your organization to join us!
2017 LLHSM Schedule
9:00-9:40amRegistration, Academic & Student Activity Center, Lyndon State College
9:40-10:30amWelcome & Keynote Panel with Jill Mudgett & Ben Ward
10:45-11:45amWorkshop Session 1
12:00 to 1:30pm   Lunch & LLHSM Awards Presentation
1:45-2:45pmWorkshop Session 2
2:45-3:00pmAfternoon Break
3:00-4:00pmWorkshop Session 3
Keynote Panel: How do you engage people with history? What are some new trends, and ongoing issues for historical societies & museums? This year’s keynote will explore these questions, and more from the viewpoints of a new historian and an established professional.
Jill Mudgett is a cultural historian who has written about rural people and places. She has a strong interest in community history and serves on the boards of the Morristown Historical Society and the Vermont Historical Society.
Ben Ward is a senior at Montpelier High School who has done research on Vermont political history and contemporary art history. He has participated in Vermont History Day and National History Day twice and is currently interning at the Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art in Burlington.
Visit our Exhibitors!Selected organizations with programs & products for local societies in attendance. Current exhibitors include:
Arcadia Publishing & The History Press
Vermont State Archives/Vermont Historical Records Program
Registration: Registration Fees: $35 VHS Members/$50 Non-Members. Light breakfast, lunch and complete program of events are included in the registration fee. Please register by October 16, 2017
REGISTER HERE  (under Events) with a credit card or download a registration form.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Rediscovering Settled Life Along the Connecticut River Before European Settlers

Dr. Jess Robinson, Vermont's state archaeologist, presented to a "full house" on September 26 in Lower Waterford at the Davies Memorial Library. He spoke on "The Early Native History of the Upper Connecticut River," including projected images of sites and artifacts, as well as historic details. The first half of the talk involved the Connecticut River locations he and other archaeologists have explored, looking for information to accompany the oral histories of tribal life in Vermont. Then he showed details from Lake Champlain sites (especially Swanton and Alburg, as well as South Burlington), where Abenaki settlements clearly thrived in complex and long-term forms.

Archaeology and ethnohistory details multiplied with audience questions, information from local residents, and additions from visiting archaeologists Peter Thomas (now residing south of the state line but continuing to learn and write about Native American presence, especially about the Sokokis) and Frank Cowan (of Canaan, VT).

Dr. Robinson is both a scholar and a "public archaeologist" -- someone who shares information with the community and also relies on community input. His talk began with sites north of Lower Waterford along the Connecticut River, then worked more or less south. Here are some of the details he mentioned:

* A project ongoing at the Lancaster (NH)-Guildhall (VT) bridge, where hearth (cooking area) and other materials were found that date back six thousand years.

* The Canaan (VT) bridge site, where evidence of early inhabitants had been "capped" (covered over) by material deposited during flooding -- which protected the evidence during later development. Among the evidence recently found is a nut processing site of Native American residents.

* The Carson Farm site in Newbury, where people lived 2550 years ago, connected to the long-term settlement known as Koas / Coös. At this site were found pieces of pottery of the type known as Vinette I vessels, which were made and used in "early to mid" Woodland culture. (See a recent summary here of Vinette I.) Here is a Canadian example of such pottery:
Vinette I pottery fragments; image courtesy of the Canadian Encyclopedia.

* Petroglyphs (drawings made in stone), both the well-known ones at Bellows Falls and some recently rediscovered ones where the West River meets the Connecticut River, under the water, witnessed by a diver.

* Windsor: A Skitchewaug site that dates from the late Archaic (about three thousand years ago) until "first contact" (of European settlers with Native Americans).

In addition, Dr. Robinson discussed corn kernels found in different locations, dating the use of corn as a staple food instead of just an occasional item, and the introduction of beans in the region. Until about a thousand years ago, Native Americans in our region were hunter-gatherers; corn took on cultural importance as larger, more settled villages formed (usually not year-round). This led to mention of a recently discovered set of three sites on the Otter Creek (Middlebury area), where corn was found -- and then to images and explanations of other sites along Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.

Discussion afterward included hopes of locating any records remaining of a site exploration in the early 1970s in McIndoe Falls (a village of Barnet), and mention of early contact in town histories and journals.

The Waterford Historical Society hosted the presentation as part of Vermont Archaeology Month, and with respect for those who lived in this region for thousands of years before the era of written European-style records that form much of our known history. For more recent information specific to our region, consult Trudy Ann Parker's book Aunt Sarah: Woman of the Dawnland.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Clarence Priest Donates Fire Department Albums to Historical Archives

On September 26, Clarence Priest, Jr., left, of the Waterford Fire Department, donated the albums he has maintained of the volunteer fire company's history from 1985 to 2015, to the Waterford Historical Society.

The Waterford Historical Society Board of Directors (from left, Clarence Priest, Jr., and then the WHS Board: Helen Pike, Tanya Powers, president Donna Heath, Craig Brown, and front, Lynn Troy; not present, Roberta Smith) is storing the albums in the town vault. This winter during its "work meetings" the historical society will merge what it already had with what Priest personally maintained for 30 years before his retirement.

The group is very excited and appreciative about this major addition to the archives that record the history of the Waterford community. Thank you, Clarence Priest!

Monday, September 18, 2017

State Archaeologist to Speak in Waterford, September 26

State archaeologist Jess Robinson will speak on Tuesday September 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Davies Memorial Library, 111 Lower Waterford Road (across from the Rabbit Hill Inn).
            Robinson’s talk is part of Vermont Archaeology Month and presents an overview of early Native History of the Upper Connecticut River and adjacent areas, focusing on early and overlooked documentary and archaeological evidence.
            There will be time for questions. The Waterford Historical Society, host of the event, will also have related displays to examine.
            The Waterford Historical Society aims “to discover and preserve whatever relates to the history of the Town of Waterford and surrounding communities, for the use, education, and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
            The event is free and open to the public, with limited handicap access. Contact the library director at 802-748-4609 or e-mail WHS president Donna Heath at

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Waterford, Vermont, Meetinghouses Over the Years

Hard to believe how many locations Waterford folks have chosen for their meetinghouses -- locations where the residents made important choices for the town government and finance, and where community has taken shape. All the locations tagged on this 1875 "Beers" map are described in the town's history, A VERMONT VILLAGE, written by Dr. C. E. Harris in 1941.

Looking for an enjoyable way to learn more about the town's varied history? Join Waterford Historical Society member Dave Morrison this evening (July 26) at 5:30 pm at the Davies Memorial Library in the White Village (Lower Waterford, across from the Rabbit Hill Inn), for a guided strolling tour of people, homes, and memories.

(You are also invited to more WHS meetings, on the fourth Wednesday of each month, usually 6:30 pm at the library, until the snow gets too "interesting.")

Monday, July 3, 2017

Lower Waterford Congregational Church Reveals Memory Garden, Sunday July 9, 2017

Rev. Ann Hockridge and Church Trustee/Deacon Kate Piper pose beside the flourishing Memory Garden, a celebratory project Piper began planting three years ago in the historic village of Lower Waterford.
Workers for Robert Morgan Steeple & Building Restoration, Littleton, NH, replaced the old sills and repaired the foundation of the 153-year-old church in May of 2014.

On Sunday, July 9, the Lower Waterford Congregational Church will publicly dedicate a Memory Garden that honors those for whom the town held special meaning.
Descendants of 18th- and 19th-century families who settled the nearly 40-square-mile municipality as well as newcomers attracted by the natural beauty of the Connecticut River hill town are expected to come, some from as far away as Florida. The event is open to the public.
To date, 60 individuals or families have names carved in red brick. In neat rows, they share an elevated, semicircular floral bed with three seasons of colorful perennials. The garden is located next to the church’s Maple Street foundation.
“This truly is Isaiah-worthy to ‘enlarge the place of thy tent’,” said Pastor Ann Hockridge, quoting from the Old Testament. “We’re deeply grateful to Kate Piper for undertaking this project and for the research assistance of Waterford Historical Society member Beth Kanell.”
Mini biographies will be shared in a commemorative program. They include a former pastor who ministered to the needs of Lower Waterford, East Saint Johnsbury, and East Concord; a son who gave his life for his country during the Vietnam War; dairy farmers, summer residents, a blacksmith, a postmistress, teachers, a photographer, an author, a veterinarian, a retired geologist who served on the town’s Planning Commission, a Select Board member, residents of the forgotten village of Upper Waterford, and an avid snowmobiler whose trails through town are still used.
Funds raised from the purchase of the memorial bricks help with the enormous restoration needs of the 153-year-old building. A successful community drive in 2012 brought in $24,000 in donations that were subsequently used to repair 19th-century support beams at both the rear and Maple Street sides of the church.
“It’s the kind of work you can’t see,” Piper explained, “but necessary for holding up the building.  A church member then gifted us with money to paint the building’s exterior.
“But not the steeple,” she added. “It was leaking and needed repair, and that now is done.”
Trustee/Deacon Norrine Williams said, “We’re looking for an angel, or two, to help us get the steeple painted and this time install solar-powered lights so travelers on I 93 and Route 18 can use it again as a beacon when they’re driving at night.”
A devastating fire in 1859 leveled the 22-year-old meetinghouse built on what was once the crossroads corner of Lower Waterford Road and Maple Street. A covered bridge at the foot of Maple Street connected this section of Caledonia County to New Hampshire.
Repurposing timber and pews from Deacon Abial Richardson’s 1818 meetinghouse on Old Country Road South near Mad Brook, the edifice was built in the Greek Revival style and dedicated on January 11, 1860.  A portrait of the pioneer settler from Royalston, MA, is on view in the church foyer along with notable Waterford artifacts that were once on display in the Fairbanks Museum, and items from the Upper Waterford church that was de-accessioned in 1954 prior to Moore Dam’s construction.
Until 1957, when the new elementary school opened, Town Meeting took place in the Lower Waterford church’s lower level while the sanctuary hosted 8th grade graduation ceremonies from the town’s 14 district schoolhouses.
The work of postcard and Hallmark greeting cards photographer Winston Pote of Lancaster, NH, brought the Congregational Church and the village of Lower Waterford international recognition in the decades after World War II.
Following the 10 a.m. worship service, Pastor Hockridge is scheduled to offer a blessing of the garden at 11:30 a.m. It will be followed by a light lunch for all who attend.
Financial gifts to help meet the Lower Waterford church’s need to restore the sanctuary interior, install a composting toilet on the lower level, and add insulation can be mailed to P.O. Box 111, Lower Waterford, VT 05848.
Yoked with Third Congregational Church on Route 2 in East St. Johnsbury, the two houses of worship share a presence on Facebook:

POSTSCRIPT: Here is the July 9, 2017, gathering for the blessing of the garden. What a lovely and loving day! Photo by Helen C. Pike.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Waterford's Older Residents Tell Their Stories -- See the Show, June 17

Waterford resident Carol Bonnett shows the photo in her album of herself at age 14, with Lower Waterford's Mrs. Davies, a prominent village resident at the time.
Camera! Lights! Oral Histories! Rhubarb!
WATERFORD - Curious about "the who" of the Davies Memorial Library?
Want to know what it was like growing up in the now-gone village of Upper Waterford on the Connecticut River?
Interested in how dairy farming used to be done in a milk house attached to an iconic red barn?
Come find out in the first public reveal of Waterford's videotaped oral histories from such long-time residents as George Bullock, Geneva Powers Wright, her brother, Willard Powers, sister-in-law Patricia Wallace Powers, and Doris Carol Fuller Bonnett. Their stories are, by turns, funny and insightful, and capture an era that started to disappear with the construction of Moore Dam in the early 1950s.
Designed for anyone with a connection to or curiosity about the post-Revolutionary War town chartered in 1780, this benefit event includes a wide variety of delicious rhubarb desserts and refreshments.
Part of the on-going Welcome Home to Waterford series, this is the 3rd annual joint fund raiser between Vermont's youngest historical society and the Congregational Church's Ladies Social Circle.
It is scheduled for Saturday, June 17, in the Fellowship Hall at the corner of Lower Waterford Road and Maple Street. Doors open at 6 p.m.; program begins at 6:30 p.m. The Maple Street door is handicap accessible.
Proceeds help the Waterford Historical Society's associated costs for its on-going videotaping of oral histories and the Ladies' steadfast goal to raise much-needed restoration funds for the historic building that opened for worship in January of 1860.
Seating is limited to 90. Tickets are $10 adults; $5 for children under 12. To reserve a place (or a table for 10), please call WHS treasurer/secretary Roberta Smith: 748-0923 or Ladies' member Carroll Campbell: 748-3455.
Can't attend, but interested in making a tax-deductible financial gift to either worthy organization? You can send a donation to the:
WHS at P.O. Box 56, Lower Waterford, VT 05848 or Congregational Church, P.O. Box 111, Lower Waterford, VT 05848.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

When Alden Hull Managed the Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford

Recently Christopher Ryan, a St. Johnsbury Academy alumnus, wrote to the Caledonian-Record about Alden Hull, whose daughters still live in this area. Here is his letter (if you click on the image, it should enlarge so you can read it):

And here is a postcard featuring the inn with its "Motel" sign on the roof, from the days when Mr. Hull managed it along with the St. Johnsbury House. At some point, the Waterford Historical Society hopes to host a gathering of people who worked for Mr. Hull -- many worked in both locations at the time, according to the day's needs.

Waterford's Hill Cemetery: Greening Up, and Two Revolutionary War Veterans

A small but dogged crew from the Waterford Historical Society brushed out the two sections of the Hill Cemetery this morning, as our contribution to Green-Up Day and in recognition of the many Waterford residents buried there. (A follow-up crew added raking afterward.)

The photos here show the graves of Revolutionary War veterans Moses Wright and Caleb Bugbee, and Mr. Bugbee's family. DAR member Nola Forbes, who was present when the DAR marker for Mr. Wright was set into the lovely little cemetery, shared details of both men's lives, families, and military service. She also planted a flag at each of the two grave sites. This salute to the men and the town's past is greatly appreciated.

To learn more about Waterford's veterans of this early American conflict, join the Waterford Historical Society at its May 24 meeting:
Waterford's charter took place in 1780, in the midst of the ongoing American Revolutionary War. Among the town's first non-indigenous settlers were a startling number of Revolutionary War veterans. Where did they come from? What are their stories? Where are their graves? And are they connected to today's town residents? Beth Kanell, author of both historical novels and some regional histories, presents insight into this early wave of Waterford residents, on May 24 at 6:30 pm at the Davies Memorial Library in Lower Waterford.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Waterford's Poets and Poems

Wednesday evening April 26, 2017, the Waterford Historical Society gathered with many guests at the Lower Waterford Congregational Church, to celebrate National Poetry Month through the words of local writers. What a great event!

WHS Pres. Donna Heath as master of ceremonies.

Patirica Powers
Teagan and Joe Healy reading together.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Alex M. Williams, Photographer with Roots in Waterford

Alex M. Williams is one of the names in the Memorial Garden at the Lower Waterford Congregational Church. A gifted photographer, Alex died at age 52 in Burlington, Vermont, in 2014; his parents, Dr. Russell and Lois Williams, live in the White Village.

Because there is no online site showing Alex's work, his parents graciously allowed these framed items to be photographed. Their detail is elegant and astonishing, and something to bear in mind as we enter the season of lilies in our Vermont gardens.

After attending New England College and the University of Vermont, Alex lived in London, England, and then in Boston for a time, during a seminal period for the Boston rock music scene. Alex shot live music, did album covers and band photos. Early "Mission of Burma" promotional photos are credited to Alex. Then in New York City, Alex assisted at photo studios, freelanced with print publications such as DETAILS, and photographed artwork for such artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, and Julian Schnabel.

In Vermont, he worked with photographer Didier Delmas and at Photogarden on College Street and Jager Di Paolo Kemp Design of Burlington. Samples of his work, especially in Vermont, would be welcome, to add to this brief note.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Farewell to Waterford's Friend, Robert Heath Goss

Waterford Historical Society board member Lynn Troy provides a rolled-up panoramic photo of the construction of the Comerford Dam to genealogist Bob Goss (center), who offered to have the photo professionally enhanced to show more details. At right is another WHS board member at the time, Charles McMahon. Photo taken at the Davies Memorial Library by Helen C. Pike.
 The Waterford Historical Society lost a good friend and researcher last month with the death of genealogist Bob (Robert Heath) Goss on March 20, 2017. Bob's retirement choices led him into genealogy and into preserving the records of cemeteries across Vermont. In particular, he took the records compiled for Waterford's cemeteries years ago by Eugenia (Genie) Powers, and updated them, adding more details and descriptions. His awareness of the town's past added to our discussions of place names like "Copenhagen" (near today's Waterford Springs), as well as changes that came from reshaping the Connecticut River with two major dams.
About three years ago, Bob Goss discovered that Waterford resident Lynn Troy had a stunning panoramic photograph of the construction of the Comerford Dam, which changed so much in Waterford during 1930-1931.  Lynn recalls, “Bob had the panorama picture of the Comerford Dam (which I had received from a friend and [in the photo here] am giving him rolled up) touched up by a professional photographer.  He then returned the much improved finished picture to me and I had it framed.  The final product is a gift to WHS from both of us.  It is in the library now waiting for a discussion with [library director] Jen as to where to hang it.” Lynn adds, “He was a delight to work with and I enjoyed knowing him for the brief time I did.”
Bob was born in Barnet, Vermont, in 1934. His parents were Dean Abbott Goss (1901-1957) and Della Maud (Heath) Goss. His mother's family does not appear to be connected to today's Waterford Heaths. However, his father's family goes back for generations to the years when Waterford was settled by nonindigenous people: Levi Goss, one of the first to settle here, was Bob's great-great-great-grandfather; subsequent generations were Locke, Francis, Charles, and Bob's father, Dean.
Almost any search of Waterford's cemetery records will turn up Bob's work for generations to come. His attentive documenting of our history and his clear joy in preserving it ensure that we will remember both his work, and his generous spirit.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Memories of Fifty Years Ago -- and Before ... in Waterford, Vermont

At the small district schoolhouse, when Waterford had one-room and two-room (and even four-room) schools. Courtesy of Vivian Davis, who is one of the students here.
Stories of the "old days" from the people who remember what happened -- these are the treasures that the Waterford Historical Society's spoken history team gathers from area residents, on video, in pictures, and in voice recordings. And now you can watch and listen to Waterford, Vermont, residents share their memories, at the group's channel on YouTube. Hope you can make time to visit really soon -- just click here to see what's available!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Time to Chat About Waterford, Vermont, History! (but Note Weather Changes Possible)

Young trees surround the Adams-Babcock Cemetery.
Waterford Historical Society program calendar for 1st half of 2017.

WHS meets at The Davies Memorial Library unless noted otherwise.

Wed., Feb. 22, 6:30 PM: Annual Meeting. Membership votes on officers. Members also share their discoveries and board of directors shares update on archives work. NOTE: may be rescheduled if weather severe.
Tues., March 7, 8 AM to noon:
It’s Town Meeting Day!
Come help us ID photos! Pick up a membership form & a copy of this program calendar for a friend or neighbor. Read about all we accomplished in the Town Report!

Wed., March 22, 6:30 PM:  Garden memories! Heirloom seeds! Old-growth rhubarb! Butternuts! Come share.

Wed., April 26, 6:30 PM:
National Poetry Month!
We’re teaming up with the Davies to offer a night of poetry reading out loud from Waterford poets present and past. Limericks, quatrains, free verse – all forms welcomed!
Poems to be submitted at Town Meeting 3/7 to help us determine the rhythm and flow for a memorable evening.
Location: to be announced later.

Sat., April 29, 9 AM to 1 PM: Davies Library Spring Book Sale and Congregational Church rummage & artisanal food sale.

Sat., May 6, 9 AM: Green-Up Day project at the Hill Cemetery on Higgins Hill Road (Gingue Farm). Rain? We’ll reschedule.

Wed., May 24, 6:30 PM: Author-poet and one of our founding members, Beth Kanell, talks about her research on Waterford’s Revolutionary War veterans.
Sat., June 17: 4th annual joint fund raiser between WHS and Congregational Church in Lower Waterford features a series of mini documentaries of Waterford residents and a return of the tasty Rhubarb Café. 
Time: 6:30 PM. Location: village church.
Tkts: $10; $5 for children under 12.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wrapping Up January, Planning for April -- and Waterford Poetry!

This poster, provided by Helen Pike, one of the planners of a new April event, says it all!

To get your poetry to Library Director Jen D'Agostino, e-mail it to or mail them to the Davies Memorial Library, PO Box 56, Lower Waterford VT 05848 -- or deliver it in person, for the added pleasure of a visit to the state's last "honor system" library at 111 Lower Waterford Road.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Waterford's Northeastern Speedway

The Caledonian-Record printed for January 6, 2017, included a pair of photos in the sports/racing section that apply to Waterford's own Northeastern Speedway. For connections to more information on the historic track, click on this earlier post and follow the embedded links to related material.

Bill Labadouche confirmed today that the noted photographer of the track's heyday, Norm McIver, has passed away, and so has regional racing historian Cho Lee, who carried on from McIver. We hope that Mr. Labadouche may be able to provide more Northeastern Speedway materials here in the future. Meanwhile, here are today's photos (thank you, Dave Kanell, for the scan):